Bio: Prior to founding Sport Clips in 1995, Gordon owned and operated salons throughout Texas. He served as President of the International SalonSpa Business Network (ISBN, the trade association for over chains and franchises representing over 20,000 salons ) from 2008-2012 and remains on the Board of Directors. He serves on the VFW Foundation Board, which directs the charitable efforts of the VFW for active duty service men and women and veterans. He was recently elected to the Board of the International Franchise Association (IFA), is a member of the IFA VetFran Committee and is Chairman of the VetFran Mentor Program for veterans. He also serves on the Board of Visitors for Southwestern University. Prior to becoming a salon owner, Gordon served as an Aircraft Commander in the U.S. Air Force (1969-1976), after which he worked as a financial planning and control consultant with Price Waterhouse & Co. in Houston, Texas (1976 - 1980). He is a graduate of MIT (BS, '68), and The Wharton School of Business, at the University of Pennsylvania (MBA with Honors, '76). He is also a retired CPA in the State of Texas.
- Tell us about the Sport Clips concept.
- How and when did you become involved with Sport Clips?
- What was your background prior to joining Sport Clips?
- What are some of the advantages in being a Sport Clips franchisee?
- Who is your ideal franchisee
- Tell us a little about the Hair Care Market?
- What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
- Do you have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?
- What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
- In your opinion, why do you think that Sport Clips would be a great opportunity for someone? Strong values, outstanding training and support, strong same store sales increases year after year, very low failure rate, fun concept, and one where you can keep your job while you build your business.
Sport Clips is a sports-themed haircutter for men and boys. We realize men and boys usually don’t relish getting a haircut, so we emphasize the experience within our four walls. From the time you walk through the front door, you know this a “guy place” where sports are playing on TVs all over. Our Stylists greet you with a friendly “Welcome to Sport Clips”, and our MVP Experience features a relaxing, massaging shampoo in our reclining/massaging/heated shampoo chairs while you relax with a hot steamed towel on your face, then finish off with a neck and shoulder massage. A terrific Experience at a reasonable price!
My wife and I founded Sport Clips, opening our first prototype store in June 1993 in Austin, TX. We started franchising Sport Clips in November 1995. We had both been in the hair care industry since the late 1970s, and felt that there was a real need for a concept that specialized in and targeted men and boys due to the decreasing number of traditional barber shops. We were looking for a sizable niche market that would be viable for many years to come, and Sport Clips was the result of our analysis.
I have an engineering degree from MIT, and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. I flew C-130 aircraft in the Air Force, and was working as a consultant for Price Waterhouse in Houston when I opened my first salon in 1979. My wife Bettye has been a Stylist since 1975; together our skills are complementary and enabled us to build a successful salon business.
We have continued to refine the Sport Clips concept over the years so that our Franchisees can focus on implementation and execution of our proven systems. We are very detail-oriented – there is a checklist for everything! We have the best success rate of any established hair care franchise – in 2011 we opened 91 Sport Clips and didn’t close a single location (of 841 total). In 2012 we will open 170 Sport Clips, reaching 1,000 open Sport Clips by year end, and we have had only one closure which was an urban development project that didn’t work out and the Franchisee wisely decided not to renew the lease. We have an intensive training and support system in place to ensure that our Franchisees have the tools they need to succeed. Our same store sales the past three years have been UP 9%-10%-10%, unprecedented in our industry and rare in any industry.
We place a great deal of emphasis on selecting only those candidates who are most likely to become successful Sport Clips Team Leaders (franchisees). We profile each candidate using the McQuaig system, comparing their personality profile with those that we know are typical of our most successful Team Leaders. We have operations interviews with each candidate before they are approved to attend our mandatory Discovery Day in Georgetown, Texas, and we make it clear that we are not in the business of selling them a franchise, we want to make sure Sport Clips is a good fit for us and for them. Our Team Leaders come from a lot of different backgrounds (very few have a background in this industry); they all have a demonstrated successful track record in their business and professional lives. We look for team players who will work within our system, who know how to build a solid team to execute our systems, and who have values consistent with ours.
This is really a great industry, even though most of our Team Leaders had never considered going into this business (neither had I before I became a franchisee of a different, now defunct, system in 1978). This is a necessary, recurring service that men and boys typically need every 3-4 weeks. There is little inventory required, and by focusing on men and boys’ haircuts we minimize the training necessary vs. training Stylists to do colors, perms, and the more complicated ladies’ haircuts. Our services are moderately priced, so it’s not a budget-buster, and we have demonstrated these past few years that recessions have little if any effect on our business. Being a manager-run business, our Team Leaders typically keep their “day jobs” initially, although many plan to transition to being in business for themselves full-time in a few years. This is a very fragmented industry, so all of the chains and franchises (which collectively have about a 10% market share) have lots of room for expansion.
I learned a lot from my experience as a franchisee of another system a lot of things NOT to do! We don’t compete with our Team Leaders…..our company stores are in markets we control 100%. We operate 25 company-owned Sport Clips in which we test, prove and document everything before we introduce new ideas to our system. We aren’t in the business of selling things to our Team Leaders….we negotiate national buying programs to ensure that quality, service and pricing is optimal then pass the savings on to our Team Leaders. We “walk the talk”, living up to our Values of Doing the Right Thing, Doing our Best, and Treating other the way they want to be treated. We take our responsibility to our Team Leaders very seriously, and continually work to incrementally enhance our system to increase their sales and profitability.
The best example in the franchising world is Ray Kroc and how he built the McDonald’s system. His book, “Grinding it Out”, is a great primer for how to run a franchise. Focus on quality, work hard to make your franchisees successful, don’t sell products to your franchisees, and make continual improvement a way of life. We adapted our values system from Coach Lou Holtz (with permission!); his books and video tapes are outstanding guides for team building and ethical conduct.
Look at and get to know the people behind the concept….you will be in business with them for a long time to come! Are your values compatible with theirs….do you even know what their values are? You will be making a large investment of time and money…make sure the systems are in place to give you every opportunity for success. Look at how many stores have been opening the past few years…is the system growing, stagnating or in decline? How many stores have closed the past few years? Obviously the fewer closures the better, although all systems will inevitably have some closures for various reasons. (This information is in Item 20 of the FDD.) Are same store sales increasing? If not, why not and is there reason to believe that trend will be reversed? Do they disclose sales and profitability in Item 19 of the FDD? If not, there may be a reason…usually systems that have a good track record want to brag about it! Has the system been around a while? While length of time in business is not in itself a plus (recent track record is more relevant), you may be more comfortable with a system that has a proven track record over a number of years. Is the franchisee selection process thorough and designed to ensure that you are a good fit for their system? If you feel you are being “sold” vs. evaluated for a good fit, beware.